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Van Dhan Yojna ensures livelihood for tribals amid pandemic

A few years ago, tribal communities in Langleng, one of Nagaland's poorest districts, used to sell their unique hill broom grass for just ₹7 per kg. Today, by making the brooms themselves with support from the Van Dhan Yojna, they now earn ₹60 per broom, making four or five brooms per kg of grass.

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“Broom grass coming from the hills is in demand because it is much sturdier and finer quality, but it was the middlemen and traders who were making all the money,” says Anungla Imdong Phom, joint director of the Nagaland’s department for development of underdeveloped areas.

“Two years ago, after a partnership with TRIFED [Tribal Cooperative Marketing Federation of India], we started buying the grass for ₹30 per kg, and there was huge supply. But the real gains came over this last year with the Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKs), which enabled people to start making the brooms themselves,” she told The Hindu in a telephonic interview. “Today, the villagers sell each broom for ₹60. They are then sold in Guwahati for up to ₹170 each.”

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The exponential increase in income has transformed lives in Langleng and other backward districts.

“The collection season is December to February, and then people would use that money for school fees since admissions happen in February. Now when we visit these areas, we can see that children are doing much better, and many families were even able to build permanent houses using this money,” says Dr. Phom.

“During the COVID-19 lockdown, VDVKs have been a lifesaver, allowing people to process, store and sell their produce within the confines of their own villages, rather than having to go out to look for a market,” she added.

The hill broom project is one of the biggest success stories of the Van Dhan Yojna, launched nationwide on Independence Day 2019 to ensure that van dhan, or forest wealth, stays in the hands of forest dwellers, by providing local platforms for processing, value addition, marketing and sale of minor forest produce.

Ten months later, 1,205 tribal enterprises employing 3.6 lakh people through 18,000 self-help groups have been set up under the scheme. About ₹3.5 crore worth of sales have taken place through these platforms, TRIFED managing director Pravir Krishna told journalists at a webinar on Monday. He hopes to treble participation to 10 lakh people and 50,000 SHGs under the coronavirus (COVID-19) relief plan. A digital procurement platform is expected to be in place by the end of the month.

The products range from hill brooms, wild honey, candles and ointments made of rock beeswax, bamboo bottles, aloe vera soaps and gooseberry wine in the north east, to hawan [incence] sticks, moha laddu and, amla murabba [preserved gooseberries] in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, and tamarind blocks, dried tendu leaves, processed mahua, lac bangles and eco-friendly leaf plates from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.

States have also begun stepping up to buy minor forest produce at minimum support prices, says Mr. Krishna, adding that ₹800 crore worth of produce has been bought by 16 States so far.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 6:38:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/van-dhan-yojna-ensures-livelihood-for-tribals-amid-pandemic/article31834944.ece

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